Monthly Archives

June 2012

Local business, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

General Mills Takes a Stand

On Wednesday June 13 General Mills CEO Ken Powell made a brief announcement that General Mills as a corporation is in opposition to the marriage amendment that will be on the Minnesota ballot this fall. His decision is explained and discussed in this blog post written by Ken Charles, Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion for General Mills.

While, General Mills doesn’t normally take positions on ballot measures, this is a business issue that impacts our employees.

I am proud to see our company join the ranks of local and national employers speaking out for inclusion. We do not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy – and as a Minnesota-based company we oppose it.

We value diversity. We value inclusion. We always have … and we always will.

While we all have our own beliefs and feelings about this issue, and we all need to respect the beliefs and values of each other, but what makes the decision of General Mills significant is that they are basing it on the business case, saying that for them to continue to attract and retain the best possible talent of all cultures and orientations, it is imperative that everyone feel valued and included in the society where they live. By constitutionally excluding any group from fully participating in the local society, General Mills believes they will not be able to continue attracting and retaining the best people to make their corporation succeed. Continue Reading

Environment, Local business, Media, Newsroom

Can JCP’s Ron Johnson Bring the Target and Apple Magic to the Struggling Retailer?

Ron Johnson, CEO of JCP (J.C. Penney’s for everyone who has not adopted the company’s new branding) has an impressive resume of retail successes. He is recognized for bringing high design products such as the Michael Graves lines into Target Stores and most notably, launched the Apple store concept and Genius Bars throughout the country. Now that he has taken the reigns of JCP, he is working to reenergize the company that, quite simply, was in need of a new strategy. Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times wrote:

“While many shoppers go to Walmart for price, Target for cheap style, high-end stores for luxury treats and the Web for ease, stores like J. C. Penney have faded into the background.”

Of the new JCP strategy, Dave Brennan, professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, Opus College of Business stated that  Johnson is working to reposition to an upscale department store more comparable to Macy’s. The J.C. Penney strategy had previously been comparable to Kohl’s. Their primary consumer is aging and the business model is tired. In addition, they are working to reduce the pitfalls that come along with promotional pricing. Prices had traditionally been inflated in order to accomodate the price decreases during sales. Rather than the unpredictable sale pricing, JCP has adopted an everyday stable pricing strategy with limited sales and markdowns on a consistent schedule. Consumers will know what to expect for pricing on the merchandise rather than taking the risk of going in when their favorite items are not on sale. This also creates staffing efficiencies for the company as they do not need as many staff in order to facilitate pricing change.

By dissecting areas of the new retail strategy, it becomes clear that Johnson has brought elements of his past experience into JCP. From the store layout, branding and leadership team, the new JCP has a foundation for a successful rebirth with concepts pulled from both Apple and Target’s success.

Johnson clearly has a good understanding of the target demographic for both Target and Apple stores. This is not the same demographic as the J.C. Penney of old. These changes are positioning the company to be more closely aligned with department stores like Macy’s in terms of merchandising and target market. Johnson is trying to attract new customers to JCP, specifically, skewing to a younger crowd who are brand and trend conscious but also on a budget. This is starting to sound a lot like Target. Continue Reading

Centers, Ethics, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Restoring Hope in Wall Street

John Taft
John Taft

Delivering the keynote address at the 13th Annual Minnesota Business Ethics Awards Luncheon, John Taft, chief executive officer of RBC Wealth Management – U.S., addressed the pressing need for restoring hope in Wall Street. Taft candidly stated that “the Wall Street culture is broken and needs to be fixed.”

In his address, Taft traced the events of the 2008-2009 financial services crisis in the U.S. wherein investors watched almost 50 percent of their savings decline. Investors were dazed—like the passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 piloted by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger in the “Miracle on the Hudson.” Just as those passengers stood on the wings of the plane in the icy waters of the Hudson River facing potential death, investors witnessed the terrifying spectacle of a near-collapse of our financial services system. Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Alumni

Alumni Give Back Through Hearts and Hammers Project

Saturday, June 2 was a not only a beautiful to be outside enjoying the sunny weather,  it was also a spectacular day to be taking part in the spring 2012 Hearts & Hammers Project Day.  Hearts & Hammers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding elderly and disabled homeowners with exterior home improvement projects, was pleased to have members of the Graduate Business Alumni community help for a third year in a row. Continue Reading

FTMBA, leadership, Newsroom

10 Tips on Doing Business in China

I am a Full-time MBA candidate in Opus College of Business and will continue on my second year of study in the fall. Being from Beijing, everything I have experienced here in terms of business culture has changed my idea of surviving in the foreign business world.

Frankly speaking, it really took me a while to get comfortable with the new rules of American business culture and I appreciate that the UST MBA program allows me to start practicing early enough before I totally embarrass myself in front of my future colleagues and business associates. Simply beginning with a firm handshake, I am adapting in various business events as well as comparing how people from different backgrounds interact with each other in this special environment. Continue Reading

Admissions, FTMBA, Media, Newsroom, Student Life

St. Thomas MBA Program Ranks Third Most Affordable in U.S.

One of the biggest considerations in pursuing a graduate education is cost. But while graduate school is never cheap, the University of St. Thomas has worked to make our MBA program as attainable as possible. Our efforts have been recognized was recently recognized by US News as the third most affordable private business school in the country.

How can this be? Many people believe that a private school education automatically equals higher tuition. For undergraduate programs, this is often true. However, at the graduate level prices are more similar no matter the institution (Harvard’s six-figure costs notwithstanding). UST’s tuition is either comparable or lower than competing institutions in the market, both private and public. You can find specifics on the Full-Time MBA’s costs here. Continue Reading

Centers, Entrepreneurship, Executive MBA, Health Care MBA, leadership, Newsroom, OCB Alumni

UST Honors Three Leaders who Embody the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Since 1990, The John M. Morrison Center at the University of St. Thomas Schulze School of Entrepreneurship has recognized outstanding individuals who personify the spirit of entrepreneurship and demonstrate excellence and ethics in the way they conduct business.

Held each spring in downtown Minneapolis, the Entrepreneur Awards ceremony allows Opus College of Business students to meet and network with alumni, successful entrepreneurs from the community and key St. Thomas stakeholders. The event also allows the university, the Opus College of Business and the Morrison Center the opportunity to publicly renew their commitment to and support of the entrepreneurial spirit.

2012 Award recipients include: Andrew Duff, chairman and CEO, Piper Jaffray; Warners’ Stellian and Angela Kelly Selden ’87, co-chair, Arise Virtual Solutions, Inc.

Duff will be returning to campus next week for an Executive Conversation on Global Trends and Observations on June 12 from 7:30 – 9:15 a.m. At this free event Duff will discuss:

  • Piper Jaffray’s perspectives on middle-market investment opportunities in Hong Kong
  • Trends in teen spending and how these impact retailers and brands
  • Ways a culture of open mindedness fuels new business in the global marketplace

Executive UST MBA students will also share observations about their global experience in Southeast Asia, specifically relating to their interaction with industry leaders in Singapore. Learn more and register »

Continue Reading

Career Services, Media, Newsroom, OCB Commentary, social media

Shifts in relationships… and how to stay with it (unless you want out)

Here at the UST MBA program, we take pride in the education we provide being relevant, with theory meeting practice. For brands, being relevant has always been the issue—for better or for worse. In Forbes article, “Four Ways Brands Can Build Better Relationships,” JP LaFors gives four basic transformations that are happening in brand-customer relationships, along with examples of firms that have accomplished it well.

It is no news to anyone in business that the relationship between brands and consumers are shifting from transactional to interactional, and shifting rather quickly. People are demanding more than just a product or service, and it is now almost expected from consumers that brands connect on a more personal level.

In a world where are constantly interacting with others through email, social media, and many other grand things that smartphones provide (such as Words with Friends or Draw Something), a company’s brand will fall behind if they do not understand these shifts occurring in how  consumers interact with their brands. Continue Reading

Newsroom, Study Abroad

Going for the win-win

It’s been said that if the first genetically modified food product (GMO) explored in the European Union had been a banana with extra nutrition for developing countries, the entire perspective on GMOs would be different.

Instead, crops with insecticide and herbicide properties were discussed. Because of concerns about how these plants might affect the community and local ecosystem, they never caught on in the EU, regardless of their ability to increase crop yields (and probably profitability). Why alter agricultural production methods simply to cater to the wishes of foreign Big Businesses many Europeans wondered, especially when the long-term effects of GMOs are so unknown? In contrast, the majority of corn and soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified and few think twice or worry about their potential affects. Continue Reading

Faculty, Health Care MBA, Newsroom

Capital Investment Decisions in Health Care – Five Questions for Prof. Southard

UST’s High Performance Health Care blog recently talked with Peter Southard, Ph.D., an assistant professor of operations and supply chain management, about his research on capital investment decisions in health care.

SouthardQ: Why did you decide to examine capital investment decisions in health care?

A: Increasing competition and artificially-imposed price controls in health care are forcing caregivers to rethink how they manage their delivery systems. Health care delivery systems must be able to provide extremely high-quality care at reasonable costs. Any variation in the systems and the processes needed to deliver the health care “product” serves to increase the costs and reduce the quality of that health care. The variation does so, partly, by increasing the time needed to deliver the service. One of the primary goals of health care must be, then, to identify and reduce the root causes of variation in its processes and systems.

This need is also true in all decision making processes in which variation, or lack of a consistent framework by which to make decisions, can lead to not only inefficiencies but also costly errors that reduce the hospital’s competiveness and its ability to deliver cost-effective care. One of the decisions impacting a health care system’s cost is the make/buy decision: when to outsource a process and when to maintain the process in-house. If the decision is to “make,” then the next decision is a capital investment one. Our research looks at adapting a framework from another area of business to this decision situation. We apply a Six Sigma quality tool, the Technology Function Deployment (TFD), to develop a practical framework that hospital managers can use to make consistent and effective decisions regarding capital investments versus outsourcing. Continue Reading